A little more than a year ago I started experimenting with a long autolyse for my 50% wholemeal loaves. I’ve recently tried it again, and I am even more content with the result. This post isn’t so much a recipe as an outline of how to do it with any wholemeal loaf, probably even 100%.

It starts with the starter. A change I’ve adopted almost completely over the past few months has been to use two builds rather than one in getting my starter going. I think it started with the Hamelman Multigrain with Soaker. That calls for about 35% prefermented dough, which is a bit of a stretch for the 50gm or less of my starter that I routinely keep. So now, no matter what bread I’m making, I do two builds. For the wholemeal starter that means 100gm of flour and 75gm of water and then, 8-12 hours later, the same again.

At the same time as I feed the starter for the second time I prepare the rest of the dough. In my case, that involves:

300gm wholemeal flour
500gm white flour
600gm water1
17gm salt

That sits on the countertop alongside the starter; no need to refrigerate.

When the starter is good and active, anywhere between 4 and 8 hours later, I remove a piece that goes into the fridge for next time and break the remainder into chunks that I bung on top of the wet dough. Then, with a wet hand, it is simply a matter of doing a few folds to get the starter incorporated into the dough.

Tip the dough out onto the counter and flatten it well with the heel of your hand to form a rough rectangle. This helps to distribute the starter too. Then fold in three, first in one direction, then the other. Put the ball back into the bowl cover with a damp towel and leave for an hour.

After an hour, do the wet-hand fold thing again and leave it for another hour.2

Repeat the fold every hour, becoming more gentle as the dough bulks up and builds strength. How many hours you will have to leave it depends on the usual factors; temperature and strength of starter. Mine is usually done after about four hours. At that point, divide the dough in two (or three), shape as you prefer and allow to prove. Depending on timing, I sometimes have to retard the loaves in the fridge overnight. The one in the photo above was in the fridge overnight and baked from cold after just an hour on the counter while the over heated up.

Then bake — with steam to begin with — for about 10% longer you normally would bake a white loaf of the same size.

Allow to cool before slicing.


  1. That gives 75% hydration; I'm pretty convinced the technique could go to 80% easily. 

  2. For a proper description of how to do that, go and take a look at Trevor Wilson’s video

Come and learn how to use a century-old Tuscan sourdough starter to make delicious bread. Leave with a loaf of fresh bread, starter of your own, and a better understanding of traditional bread-making and the skills to match.

While your bread is rising, we’ll talk about everything from grains and milling to the future of bread.

Saturday, December 16th: Basic Sourdough

Sold out; there is a waiting list.

A step-by-step, hands-on workshop will end with you making a crusty sourdough loaf. I will explain each step of the process and give you the confidence to bake a beautiful loaf of bread. No experience needed.

Sunday, December 17th: Ciabatta and Rye

Change of plans; this will be another beginner course, focused on a multigrain seeded loaf.

Building on your bread-baking experience, this workshop will specifically address how to make an Italian ciabatta and sourdough rye bread.

Each workshop will last from 9AM to approximately 4PM.

Cost per workshop: $100, which includes snacks, a light lunch, and wine. At the end of the workshop, you will take home your own jar of sourdough starter, a freshly baked loaf of bread, and a booklet with instructions and recipes.

For details, contact our gracious host, Jennifer Wilkin Penick.

To continue the story of #igbreadclub

A brief recap: each month we bake a loaf from Hamelman’s Bread and share our experience. Although this is filed under Recipes I’m not actually giving detailed quantities or method because I followed the original pretty closely and so don’t feel it is fair. The only difference is that instead of ordinary wholewheat flour I used whole farro flour, which scarcely warrants comment.

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